Thursday, May 28, 2009

Determinationes, past and present

Determinatio is a Latin term (Greek: ἀφορισμός or ὁροθέσια) for the written, serial description of boundaries, produced as necessary by Roman surveyors and routinely included in the verdicts of Roman (pro-)magistrates and iudices when settling boundary disputes.

Here's an example, dating to the early second century CE:

Serving as proconsul of either Achaia or Macedonia, Q. Gellius Augurinus delivered the following verdict in a boundary dispute between the Thessalian communities of Lamia and Hypata (mod. Ypati). His ruling was subsequently inscribed, and was first recorded by modern scholars in 1855 in the Greek village of Myxiates, where the stone had been reused in building a house.

CIL 3.12306; ILS 5947a; IG IX/2 p. 19 (before no. 60); CIL 3.586; Henzen 1856; Smallwood 1966 447. See also: Stählin 1924, 220-222; RE s.v. Hypata.

Q(uinto) Gellio Sentio Augurino proco(n)s(ule) decreta / ex tabellis recitata kalendis Martis. Cum optimus maximusque princeps / Traianus Hadrianus Aug(ustus) scripserit mihi uti adhibitis menso/ribus de controversiis finium inter Lamienses et Hypataeos cognita causa / terminarem egoque in rem praesentem saepius et continuis diebus /5 fuerim cognoverimque praesentibus utriusque civitatis defensoribus, / adhibito a me Iulio Victore evocato Augusti mensore, placet initium / finium esse ab eo loco in quo Siden fuisse comperi, quae est infra con/saeptum consecratum Neptuno, indeque descendentibus rigorem ser/vari usque ad fontem Dercynnam, qui est trans flumen Sperchion, it[a ut per] /10 amphispora Lamiensium et Hypataeorum rigor at fontem Dercynn[am supra] / scriptum ducat et inde ad tumulum Pelion per decursum Sir [---] / at monimentum Euryti quod est intra finem Lam[iensium --- ] / [---] Erycaniorum et Proherniorum [---] / [---] thraxum et Sido [---] /15 [---] const [ ------

Translation (mine):

Verdicts recited from the tablets when Quintus Gellius Sentius Augurinus was proconsul, on the kalends of March. Since the best and greatest princeps, Trajan Hadrian Augustus, wrote to me that, once surveyors had been consulted concerning the boundary disputes between the Lamienses and the Hypataeoi, and the case had been investigated, I should make a boundary demarcation; and, since, in the case at hand, I was present often and for successive days, and I investigated with the defenders of both cities being present and with Iulius Victor, evocatus of the emperor, a surveyor, being consulted by me, let it be that the start of the boundary be from that place in which I have learned Side was, which is below the enclosed area consecrated to Neptune; and thence in descending to preserve a straight line all the way to the spring (called) Dercynna, which is across the river Sperchion, so that a straight line leads through the amphispora of the Lamienses and the Hypataeoi to the above-mentioned spring Dercynna; and thence to the tumulus (called) Pelion along the slope (called) Sir... to the monument of Eurytos which is within the boundaries of the Lamienses ...
This same genre is still in use in legal property descriptions in the United States today. I stumbled across another example this morning in the revised Huntsville downtown planning and zoning document, now awaiting approval by the city council (ARTICLE 23 GENERAL BUSINESS C-3 DISTRICT REGULATIONS, pp. 9ff):

Within Historic District Buffer Zone B, the maximum number of stories shall be four (4) stories with a maximum height of sixty (60) feet.

Historic District Buffer Zone B is defined as the property that lies within the following boundaries: Begin at the the intersection of the centerlines of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street/Lincoln Street; then in a southerly direction along the centerline of Monroe Street/Lincoln Street to the intersection of the centerlines of Lincoln Street and Randolph Avenue; then West along the centerline of Randolph Avenue to the intersection of the centerlines of Randolph Avenue and Green Street; then South along the centerline of Green Street to the intersection of the centerlines of Green Street and Eustis Avenue; then West along the centerline of Eustis Avenue to the intersection of the centerlines of Eustis Avenue and Franklin Street; then South along Franklin Street to the intersection of the centerlines of Franklin ... [ it goes on and on, of course! ]

Truly, a morning of geekish glee for me ...

Thanks to James at the Huntsville Development Blog for posting the link.